Learning The Hard Way
By Scott Wilson, Year 8, Bottisham Village College

He sat up, dazed, while bursts of bright light flashed around him, the ground quaking violently. His head swam and felt like it had been microwaved for too long. The only thought that formed in his head was his name, Cecil. He rolled onto his knees and panned around, taking in the orange sand and dirt that lay around for as far as he could see. He struggled to his feet and looked at himself. ‘My God, Cecil’, he thought. His normal denim jeans bore burn signs, and what was left of his leather jacket was tattered and charred, blackened at the edges. Upon closer inspection of his surroundings, the ground appeared to be littered with scraps of metal, and objects that looked suspiciously like bodies were peppered here and there.

He brought his left leg up and took a step, which required an enormous amount of effort; but he managed, and step by step, he trudged forwards, making his way towards one of the corpses. The constant quaking of the ground was mysterious, and at one point he fell on his face and swallowed several mouthfuls of dirt. Choking, he got back up.

After what seemed like forever, he finally reached one of the corpses, and took in what met his eyes. It lay sprawled on the dirt, its clothes in a similar state to his, and one of its limbs had been ripped clean off at the shoulder and was lying in a crimson puddle nearby. The head was little more than a mess of bloodied flesh and bone, and the torso had been ripped open. He shuddered and wondered what on earth could have caused such horrific damage.

He got his answer.
The brutal quaking of the ground intensified, and a gargantuan machine that walked on four spider-like legs lumbered towards him. Its legs met at a circular, dazzling silver dome with a single red lens positioned at the very centre, now fixated on him. Each enormous step made it look twice as large, until it was looming over him — a predator cornering its prey. ‘Holy crud’, he whispered to himself. No way would he be able to outrun it, or fight it for that matter. He gazed up, whimpering, his heart thumping furiously in his chest. His legs seemed to have turned to jelly, his stomach, ice. Suddenly, its scarlet lens brightened dramatically, then screamed out a shrill note, blasting a beam of impossibly red light at him. He would not have time to breathe, only time to contemplate how he had ended up here.

Icy water splashed onto his face, and he shot upright, breathing rapidly and coughing. “Are you ok Cecil?” asked his friend, Jeff. “You just keeled over onto the coffee table just now.”

He was back in his living room, the VR game on the telly paused. He sighed. He never would look at computer games the same way again.